09-20-2018 Columns

Where’s Wendzel? Dear Editor, I was disappointed when my opponent in the Michigan State House race to represent the 79th district, Pauline Wendzel, revoked her invitation to attend a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties, Michigan. As you know, the LWV remains a nonpartisan organization that encourages civic engagement and discussion of public policy issues to ensure that voters have all the information they need prior to going to the polls. Given our current political climate, it’s unsurprising that neither of the Republicans seeking to represent the people of the 79th, at the State House or State Senate, has agreed to debate their opponent, particularly considering that it would require them to have explanations for their party’s failures to support our teachers, inaction about our skyrocketing healthcare costs, and the GOP’s culture of catering to special interests in Lansing. I was looking forward to the LWV candidate forum planned for the month of October because it would have given me a chance to answer questions directly from women in our community in a public setting. In the interest of fundamental fairness and transparency, my campaign has made it clear that we want to participate in multiple debates and forums, with specific attention paid to energy, education, and healthcare. These are the issues we hear about most as we continue to knock on thousands of doors, but it appears that Wendzel is moving in lockstep with the other Republicans around our state who have been expressly encouraged to decline any chance to speak directly to the people they are asking to vote them into positions of power. How is that leadership? I believe every voter deserves to hear directly from all of their candidates about their platform and their ideas for the future. Our community is so tired of politics as usual which seems to happen in the dark, as far from the public as possible, where politicians answer exclusively to Lansing insiders. So, for now, we will meet voters at their doors and continue to practice “front porch politics.” I am not afraid to stand in the light – right here in my home district – to give you my credentials as a lawyer and small business owner, and explain to everyone why I believe my positions, from support for southwest Michigan farms and farmers to investment in clean energy, will bring our district together to build a brighter future for all – not those who try to buy our votes and our silence. The time is now for openness and transparency, and we thank the Leagues of Women Voters for their invitation promoting both of those ideals. We really hope to have another chance to speak with their members soon. Sincerely, Joey Andrews Candidate for State Representative in Michigan’s 79th

Healthy Home Fair was a hit in Hartford The Van Buren Conservation District held its first ever Healthy Home Fair in Hartford last week. Almost 200 people came out for this free event to learn about ways to keep their homes, yards and septic systems environmentally clean. “We wanted to highlight some of the things people can do in their homes and yards to keep their environment clean and healthy,” says Erin Fuller of the Van Buren Conservation District. “People don’t always know how to properly dispose of household chemicals, test their well water or maintain their septic systems, so we had a variety of activities, demonstrations and giveaways to help with some of these less-than-fun tasks.” Popular activities at the fair included games (“To Flush or Not to Flush”), well water nitrate screening, a septic system display, rain barrel demonstrations and drawings for grocery gift cards and septic system pump-out vouchers. “SepticSmart week is September 17-21, so this was good timing to help people understand the impacts their septic systems can have on our lakes and rivers,” says Erin Fuller. SepticSmart Week is an annual event focused on educating homeowners and communities on the proper care and maintenance of their septic systems. The fair was funded in part through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Nonpoint Source Program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For more information, contact the Van Buren Conservation District at 269-657-4030 x5 or visit www.vanburencd.org.

“Rake A Difference” mobilizes volunteers to help seniors with fall yard work Sign-ups open for United Way of Southwest Michigan’s 8th annual Day of Action for Seniors Before winter hits, raking your yard and cleaning out your gutters is a vital step to ensuring spring snow melt does not cause water damage to your home or lawn. Many area seniors try to accomplish this work on their own, putting them at risk for falls and serious injury. United Way of Southwest Michigan is inviting community members to give them a helping hand when prepping for winter. On Thursday, November 8, hundreds of area volunteers, working as teams, will help seniors in Berrien and Cass counties rake and bag leaves and clean gutters as part of United Way’s 8th annual Day of Action for Seniors. The service is free of charge and serves seniors, age 60 and older, who are physically unable to perform yard work and can’t afford to pay for services. Seniors are helped on a first-come, first-serve basis, dependent on the number of volunteers recruited. “It’s very tough for many people in our community to winterize their homes, and this gives us one day to make a big difference,” stated Anna Murphy, President of United Way of Southwest Michigan. In 2017, the event saw more than 730 volunteers help over 230 senior citizens. Seniors and volunteers can sign up at uwsm.org/rakeadifference by Oct. 12. Major sponsors are The Home Depot Foundation – Store #2768, AEP, D.C. Cook Plant, French Paper Co., Gast Manufacturing, and the McLoughlin Family Foundation. Other sponsors are Andrews University, Chemical Bank, Hastings Mutual Insurance Co., Kemner Iott Benz, Kinexus, Lindberg/MPH, Niles Precision Company, Plante Moran, Silver Beach Pizza, United Federal Credit Union, and Vail Rubber Works.

Winning and losing “Nothing gets through! Nothing!” My encouraging cheer for my son in his AYSO soccer days was heard again and again at his Saturday games probably much to the annoyance of the other parents who quietly watched their kids win or lose every weekend. I didn’t care, not then and not now. He knew I was proud of his performance, and he was aggressively good at defense – scary good. Usually nothing got through. In AYSO everyone plays. That’s good. But everyone doesn’t win. And that’s good too. Both winning and losing teach. Both teach character and both teach skills. Being protected from losing also protects from winning. Keeping no score never lets you know how well you’ve performed in the arena. A primary motivation to improve is removed. It’s socialism on the soccer field. When you finally grow up and encounter failure or if you need to learn new skills, you will be unprepared to deal with it like a responsible adult. You will envy those who can deal with life and will want their success and reward without putting forth the effort it takes to succeed. That’s plain lazy and stupid! Winning and losing is a Biblical concept. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (NASB) He was talking about the Christian life. Salvation is a free gift. It’s like your new soccer shirt. But the Christian life is a competition, a striving, a contest to be won or lost. It’s how well you control the ball and play the game! Don’t be afraid to compete. There are wins and losses. We learn from both. Ultimately we play to win and to hear God’s words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.

Social Security celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month Social Security touches the lives of every American. Hispanics make up our nation’s largest ethnic minority group with a population of 57.5 million, according to 2016 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, Hispanic Americans form 17.8 percent of the nation’s total population. Social Security provides retirement, disability, and other benefits to over 63 million American workers and their family members. When people hear “Social Security,” they think of retirement first, but Social Security also provides protection for the families of workers who become unable to work due to severe impairments or who have died. We work hard to provide ready customer service and easy-to-access information about our important programs and benefits to millions of Americans. If Spanish is your primary language, you can visit www.segurosocial.gov, our Spanish-language website. It includes hundreds of pages of important information about how to get a Social Security card, plan for retirement, apply for benefits, and manage your benefits once you’re receiving them. Many of our offices have staff who speaks Spanish, or you can call 1-800-772-1213 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and select the option for Spanish. Spanish-speaking individuals wishing to apply for retirement, disability, survivor, and other benefits, as well as Medicare, can request an appointment online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyforbenefits for an in-person interview or telephone claim with a representative. In many cases, you can make an appointment with a bilingual representative. Social Security is with you throughout life’s journey. To learn more about what Social Security offers, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/people/hispanics. Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

HOW’S POLLY is frequent question Anne and I get wherever we go in the Tri-Cities (and beyond). With a recent development that involved the specter of risky surgery I feel another update is in order.

ANOTHER MIRACLE… Our granddaughter, precious Polly, has fought for life since before birth. Almost 13 years ago it was the power of prayer and Christian conviction that over-ruled medical practice and allowed her to enter this life. Common medical practice in former communist countries called for children with so-called birth defects were not allowed to survive birth. Doctors in the obstetrics hospital in Kiev were allowing the child in our daughter’s womb to die there over the misgivings of her parents and other Christians. It was prayers to change the minds and hearts of the hospital staff that brought an 11th hour caesarian section and our precious Polly came into the world and our lives. Within days of her birth, her family, then parents Gillian and Sergei Marchenko and older sisters Elaina and Zoya, were on their way back to the states. Their mission to plant Christianity in the Ukraine was halted by the need of medical care that respected the live of a Down syndrome child. Polly’s struggle to live and thrive continued in Chicago. Down syndrome kids are susceptible to a variety of maladies that other children are not. DS may have poor muscle tone, loose joints and vertebrae, jumpy eye tics and difficulty focusing, slowness to talk and learn. Polly has all of those, and then to add insult to the injury, she had a couple strokes as a toddler, just after she was learning to walk and talk. Without any relation to Down syndrome, Polly has a rare disease (less than 100 kids a year are diagnosed) called Moya Moya. Moya Moya is a condition of the arteries in the brain that do not develop as they should in babies mostly. Under x-rays the underdeveloped arteries resemble “puffs of smoke”, Moya Moya in Japanese. Call it luck or a miracle, one of the two top neurosurgeons in the U.S. to treat Moya Moya was at the children’s hospital just a couple miles from Polly’s home in Chicago. The surgeon within days connected arteries from Polly’s scalp to her brain, bypassing the “puffs of smoke” that caused her strokes. The strokes took their toll. Polly had to relearn most of what she could do, including walking and talking. But miracle of miracles, she did it and entered kindergarten just a couple years later. Now she’s in the sixth grade, looking forward to being a teenager and thriving in school in St. Louis with her family, including another sister. The Marchenkos were haunted by a little girl they had met in an orphanage. Evangeline was also a Down syndrome child and had been abandoned by her parents. Her world was a crib in a room full of cribs, with little human contact and no motherly love. The Marchenkos returned to Kiev and adopted Evangeline. “Eva” is also thriving with the family in St. Louis. She is also autistic, so she attends a special school, but lives at home. Polly and Eva are great friends, and they draw wonderful support from their older sisters. Elaina has a special bond with Polly. Zoya has the same close bond with Eva. This past year or so, Polly has had episodes of dizziness and stumbling. After much testing and examinations, neurosurgeons in St. Louis determined that she was having blood flow issues to her brain. One caused by the Moya Moya and another by neck vertebrae pinching off the blood flow when she looked down while watching TV or reading. They said the condition would only worsen so that brain surgery and fusion of some neck vertebrae was warranted. The past weeks have been a flurry of more testing and consulting, and lots of prayer. There’s a wonderful network of good people that offer prayers where ever and when ever needed. And many, many of them pray for Polly. So, to some, it was no surprise that the doctors consulted and concluded that perhaps surgery was not warranted and perhaps the restricted blood flow was not sufficient to cause dizziness and stumbling. Perhaps she may have vertigo instead. Sergei, papa and Pastor and head prayer guy is convinced it was the prayers that brought the surgeons back for more testing and enlightened them that there was another cause. And perhaps it was the prayer that saved Polly from some serious and risky surgery. How about Polly, this indomitable young lady who has never let adversity get her down? She was disappointed by the news of no surgery… because that meant no pizza served in her hospital room! There are miracles and this is one!

WHAT’S YOUR STORY… miracles do happen, good news is out there; please share your good news with fellow Tri-City Record readers. Not all of us are on “Facebook” so please send me your miracle story. Mail it to the Tri-City Record, P.O. Box 7, Watervliet, MI 49098. Or call me at 463-6397, or email record@tricityrecord.com.